Survival as a Travel Writer in 2020

2020 started ordinarily enough. We took our campervan away in January and February to various corners of the UK. In March, as we walked around charming Cheltenham, I noticed that the shops were running out of hand sanitiser and people were buying face masks. When Lock Down One came we were in Scotland and had to race back home to Lancashire feeling sad and frustrated. My pessimistic inner voice mithered inside my head, insisting that this coronavirus wasn’t going to leave our shores without a fight. A pandemic would surely be a long haul and I wasn’t sure I would come out the other end still working as a travel writer.

In March I wrote about these anxious lock down feelings. With no possibility of travel I had little else to write about and sharing my worries helped. Walking and cycling our local paths every day eased the anxiety and helpful and caring readers gave me support after my heartfelt and desperate post when I felt about as useless as one of those proverbial chocolate teapots.

I had planned a busy year of writing in 2020, penciling in more travel articles than ever. So much for plans! With little paid writing through the spring I had more time to spend on blog posts. I have continued to write regularly, although posted less than in 2019. I still prefer to write 600 – 800 word posts that readers don’t have to invest a stack of time ploughing through but in 2020 I have experimented with writing some longer posts. These are designed as detailed guides for an area, particularly for walkers and cyclists. This is information I haven’t had time to arrange and share before and from comments I have received these posts will be useful long-term. As I have got to know the corners of Morecambe and Lancaster I have shared my local knowledge on the blog too.

Since I started this blog five years ago the readers have steadily increased each month. Not surprisingly, there was less interest in a blog that focusses on travel early in the spring of 2020 and views plummeted in March. Readers gradually returned through June and I am quietly relieved that I’m not talking to myself and that the number of views over the year has held steady and reached slightly beyond 2019’s stats. That said, this blog is never about the numbers, what has been fantastic is the lovely comments and feedback I have received from readers, the blog has been a more interactive space in 2020 and with much less contact with actual people through the year this has been important.

My other blog, Memorial Bench Stories, has had its best year ever! This is nothing to do with people being drawn to my writing, it is the power of the media. The blog and I were featured on Radio 4 in a piece about memorial benches in January and this directed new readers to that blog. I have been recording memorial benches that catch my eye since 2012 and that blog continues to be driven by respect and sympathy, the media interest won’t go to my head!

While I have been writing for MMM for many years, in the last couple of years I have also been paid for writing for Campervan Magazine. Looking back, in 2019 I wrote 16 articles for these two wonderful magazines, whereas in 2020 I have only managed to pull together nine [and four of those were pre-Covid-19 trips]. There is always a time-lag between my completion and submission of an article and publication so I have still seen quite a few articles published in 2020, although about four less than expected. Peering into my 2021 crystal ball it is clear that this side hustle income will not recover to 2019 levels at least in the medium-term.

2020 laid on many surprises but an exciting one was being asked to contribute to a book of world-wide cycling routes by a large international publisher. Writing for a book, rather than a magazine, was an interesting learning experience for me and I felt out of my depth at times trying to understand their lingo and ways of working. Although it only paid a similar amount to writing for magazines and so won’t make me rich, you can’t put a price on a new experience. The editing process distracted me through lock down, as my copy pinged to-and-fro between me and the editor, who ‘marked’ my writing with a big red pen [otherwise known as track changes]. This felt like being back at school and was often frustrating, particularly when I was being asked to change something back to the way it was the first time! I gritted my teeth and accepted the challenge. Unlike in a magazine, I also got the chance to proofread and comment on the final page layout, including the photographs chosen.

For the past six years most of my free time [in between campervan holidays and seeing friends] has been spent researching and planning the next trip, writing travel articles and blog posts and editing photographs. 2020 has given me more free time than I have ever had before. I haven’t learnt how to play the saxophone or become fluent in German in that time but I have read a lot [over 50 books] and got stuck into a lot of DIY and gardening. 2020 has given me the chance to experience proper retirement!

There is now news of the first vaccines, hints about rapid tests and I am starting to get hopeful that the freedom to travel will once again be something we can take for granted by the summer of 2021. I am hesitant to plan or book anything yet but I truly hope we will get to visit mainland Europe again. If not, I hope I will be allowed to find joy exploring the UK in our campervan. My fascination in uncovering interesting stories and histories and finding beauty in unlikely places hasn’t diminished but I’m still not sure if my short travel writing career will survive this interruption.

Author: Back on the Road Again Blog

I write two blogs, one about my travels in our campervan and living well and frugally and the second about the stories behind the people commemorated in memorial benches.

20 thoughts on “Survival as a Travel Writer in 2020”

  1. Great post Carol – thanks for sharing. I’m feeling pretty much like you about where we’ve been in 2019 & where we might be going in 2020 (please…I also want to go back to continental Europe..) and although my travel writing output is nowhere as intense as yours, I can really feel the change of focus on what might be “of the moment” to write about, and where to go to write about it! So many congratulations on being asked to contribute to a book (whole new experience there!) and extend your writing range even though extending the travelling range we camperfolk hanker after is currently overshadowed by a huge question mark. We will hit the road again, I’m sure, but probably with a far greater appreciation of what this promises after the “pause”! Stay safe and well.

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  2. Well done taking on new challenges and congratulations on your book contribution! I shall look forward to reading it.
    The approval of the first vaccine in the UK today gives me incredible hope that freedom travel might return in 2021.
    We were luckier than most in 2020, unable to return to the UK and being ‘forced’ to travel, albeit with a high degree of anxiety and constantly changing plans. I’m looking forward to getting back to Livin’ the Dream calmly!

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    1. Thank you. Reading your blog I have a mixture of envy and concern, I want to be travelling again but the virus is a constant worry. I am convinced that camping is low risk but then go into worse-case scenario mode and worry about dealing with hospitals when I don’t speak the language. I am now wondering where you will get vaccinated so that you can have a future of anxiety-free travelling.

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      1. I can’t deny that this has been an anxious year. We have been glued to the news (which we usually try to avoid!) and had to change plans constantly when hotspots bubbled up.

        The worry is usually worse than the actual. I managed to get French passports for the dogs, visit a dentist in Provence and got all our tyres changed in Poland, but struggled with the Polish healthcare system for repeat prescriptions. They have English-speaking doctors, but it’s a private system and was difficult to get an appointment. The worst case scenario is Google Translate, which came in useful with our Italian vet.

        We’re back in the UK at the moment and will be having the vaccine as soon as possible. As a biochemist, I am thrilled with the science, which is even more of a bonus!

        Let’s hope for a worry-free 2021!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are doing a fantastic job of being flexible and agile. I always find dealing with technical foreign languages a bit stressful but yes, there is always Google translate! The science is fantastic. Anthony is a biochemist too and researched what MRNA is and lovingly and patiently explained it all to me in language a Geographer would understand yesterday.

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  3. I can definitely relate to all of this right now. I’m used to writing about the most recent places I’ve travelled to, but right now I’m not really travelling anywhere so I’m struggling for content! Fingers crossed that next year, with the news of the vaccine, we’ll be able to get back to travel writing!

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  4. I loved this. Thanks for sharing your feelings and successes! I’m pretty much in the same boat as you, however, with travel being off the table, I haven’t been very motivated to write, especially the past few months. Hopefully 2021 will be filled with travel for you.

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    1. Thank you Kelly. It is hard to stay motivated during this time. My output has been a bit of a roller coaster, sometimes I need to write and then I have to leave it for a few days. It is good to keep practicing and that is why I have blogged about how I am feeling, not something I usually do. Take care and I hope things improve for you too very soon.

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  5. This year, 2020 is tough for many travel writers. The same happens to me as well. But I have more time to rewrite all my posts and modified my photos. It takes me so much time and I still don’t feel satisfied with my content.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For some time now, I’m planning on giving up my day job for travelling and writing. Sadly – and, obviously, fortunately – I didn’t do it until now which turned out to be one of the best decisions – because of stupid covid. I’m already suffering enough from not being able to travel. But this way, at least I have no financial losses 😱

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  7. Congratulations on your new writing experience. So many of our travel adventures planned for this year cancelled but we did manage a sneaky trip to Sicily. In some ways, because we were forced to travel less, it made our experience in Sicily a lot more magical. Don’t tell anyone, but apart from the disappointment of not travelling, I rather enjoy social distancing!

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  8. Good to read this turn into your writing journey, and as i write i also hear another bloody mutation and what not. Hope you, others and normally people get to breathe without thinking of stepping outside rather than forced to sit inside homes.

    Hope you write more and less out of frustration 🙂

    Narayan x

    Liked by 1 person

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